16.03.2013 - 18.03.2013 40 °C
These past 2 weeks have been a whirlwind! I haven't had the chance to get to an actual computer since my last post so here I am typing away on a tiny iPod keyboard. Excuse any spelling/grammartical errors. So much has happened recently that I'm going to divide posts up into different entries. I'll finish up with the rest if our trip in the south!
So we ended up doing a cooking class in Fort Kochin at Mrs. Leelu Roy's homestay and were able to meet up with our friend, Rosie, from the UK who met us there. The class had about 10 people at it, from all over the world - Canada, UK, USA, Germany, France. The class was set up that we observed Mrs. Roy preparing the dishes and taking notes as she went, I wished we had the chance to actually prepare the recipes ourselves but obviously not possible in her tiny kitchen. We made 5 dishes - Thoran, chapati, dahl (lentil curry dish), Keralan curry fish, and pumpkin curry (amazing!). We met another girl from Canada (Toronto) who had done the same thing Rosie, Derek and I had done - quit our jobs to travel! We know we did the right thing and don't need convincing but at the same time there's something comforting about meeting like minded people while travelling... After the cooking class we went back to this awesome cafe/restaurant called the Tea Pot (where we had the Keralan speciality, fish moilee - to die for!) and had birthday cake for Rosie and some mint tea. This spot is so neat! Old tea pots hanging everywhere, bright yellow walls with giant ceilings and the tables are made out of old tea crates.
From there we went back to our hotel (which was paid for by my mom for 2 nights as a treat!) and were up at 5:30am the next day to make the 1.5 hour ride to the airport to pick them up! We were SO excited! We waited... and waited... waited some more. Lots of people arrived but no Tracy and Neil. Then panic set in a bit. Check their itinerary and even though they were coming in on a domestic flight from Mumbai, they arrived at the international gate! We ran to the other side of the building where they had been waiting there for us for an hour. Typical way to start our time together. Hah. So here are the 4 of us, so happy we're together! We made the trip back to Fort Kochin, took a ferry to cross to one of the island and back to our hotel to get a few hours of sleep in before heading out for lunch. Poor Tracy and Neil, just in from travelling about 30 hours in total with an 11 hour time difference and we only let them get about 3 hours sleep. We really didn't want jet lag to affect them so had an agreement to tough it out and make the most of their 2 weeks with us. They were incredible the entire time together... troopers is an understatement.
After lunch back at our favorite Tea Pot restaurant, we headed to Cafe Coffee Day for some much needed AC and a cold beverage, then walked to the waterfront where we watched the Chinese fishing nets move into action. Actually, we got to participate! Total touristy thing to do I'm sure but was really neat. These nets are massive and basically looks like a giant mast on a boat that rocks up/down into and out of the water to set the trap. It's a little difficult to explain - definitely google it! We all got a chance to pull the ropes to move the nets back up - caught a tiny fish. Apparently, this way of fishing is being replaced by more efficient means since it takes so much time/energy. I'm not really even sure how much fish they catch... the 3 times they put the nets into the water when we were there, we only saw the tiny fish caught... must be such a difficult way to make money although we talked to a man who sells fish and they get pretty decent prices (by Canadian standards) for their fish. Seems like they were slightly better than what Canadian fishermen get. From the waterfront, we walked along the fish markets and the women selling souvenirs to a little restaurant overlooking the harbour. Alcohol is quite difficult to order in restaurants (generally) around India so even though it's not on the menu, lots of restaurants sell it 'under the table'. The 4 of us sat up on the roof while the waiter poured Kingfisher beer into cups under the table - we couldn't even keep the bottle on the table, had to be under in case police came by. We called it our 'Special Tea'. Hah. That night went to one of the outdoor seafood restaurants and had some calamari (so good!) and fish moilee (much better at the Tea Pot because the fish they used had way too many bones) and headed to bed!
Our next day we had some breakfast, Tracy was still tired so Neil, Derek and I grabbed a tuk-tuk to Jew Town (it's really called that), a really neat outdoor laundry place where everything is handwashed in these stone stalls and then hung to dry in a huge area for hospitals, schools, etc. and then the Dutch Palace (like a museum). It started getting incredibly hot so we headed back to get Trace, bunkered down at the Garden Restaurant and had some delicious curries! Our days started to become familiar... after we ate we went back to the cafe and were there probably 4 hours! We just talked and caught up, it was so nice. Ok... actually we stayed that long because they have AC and we were dying in the 40 degree weather. When the heat went down to a cool 30 degrees, we went to get Tracy and Neil some new clothes as they quickly realized, like us, that clothing bought in Canada can't do much for you here. After a really rough day of sleeping, eating, cafes and shopping, we had dinner at a nearby hotel and then of course NEEDED gelato (which was amazing) before calling it quits. We were just exhausted. I don't know how socialites do it! Hah.
The next morning we packed our bags up and headed to the train station to start our trip down the coast to Varkala. Derek told us the train was 1.5 hours and it turned out to be 4 hours... Haha. We sure let Derek have it! No, I'm kidding, it turned out to be great and also Tracy and Neil's first intro to train travel in India which I think they enjoyed! We were in sleeper class which means no AC but the breeze was enough to keep us cool. We had booked the night in these private huts (Vadanta Wake Up Hostel) and they had a fan, AC, bathroom, hot water - perfect. After checking in just after lunch, we decided to walk down to the beach and had lunch overlooking the shore. Varkala is built on these giant cliffs with a gorgeous beach but Tracy and I knew we probably wouldn't feel comfortable in our bathing suits so we opted to hang in our clothes on a towel while the boys went swimming. Apparently that does not deter gross, creeping men. Tons of 'foreign' women were in bikinis but it still didn't make it normal. Tracy and I look up and there is a local man standing in front of us, eating cashews out of a bag. We stand up and ask him if he needs something, he doesn't say anything and instead, DISGUSTINGLY keeps looking us up and down, still while eating cashews. The boys come back from the water and try to stand between the man and us but he just walks around them. Finally we get him to leave and we watch him walk up the beach, stop where women are in bikinis (they had no idea he was there as they were lying on towels) and eating his cashews, does a circle around each woman and just gawks. GROSS GROSS GROSS. That was our first really repulsive experience of how some men act here. You feel so violated without being physically touched!
So our time at the beach was great with the exception of that man. Ew. We took a walk up the beach as the sun set, there were people meditating, doing yoga (which is apparently huge there) and grabbed an appetizer at a beach front restaurant and tried Momo's for the first time (a delicious Tibetan wonton like snack) then back to our hostel where we booked our drive for the next day to Alleppey. We had dinner at this fantastic German bakery (which sounds deceiving because the menu was mostly Indian curries) and off to bed it was! As we were all falling asleep... we hear a scratching on the outside of our hut... all over it. Cockroaches? Birds? Squirrels? We didn't chance it... mosquito net went up!
I feel like this post is getting so long! I'm going to sign off here and pick up again soon with the next week of our travels.